The unemployment rate for people with college degrees is far lower than the national average. But young people just out of university are still facing the toughest job market in a generation. This past spring, we brought you a series of reports profiling new college graduates.

South Dakota Public Broadcastings Charles Michael Ray has this update.

CHARLES MICHAEL RAY: After sending out nearly 200 applications, Christopher Self of Rapid City, South Dakota, finally landed a job.

(Soundbite of party)

RAY: This is Selfs going-away party. His friends have packed themselves into a small house to relive some old college memories, and to enjoy a few beers. Self is leaving Rapid City, where he went to school, and heading to Omaha, Nebraska, to start his new career.

Mr. CHRISTOPHER SELF (College Graduate): It is a dream job for me in my dream career field, so Im pretty stoked, pretty excited about it.

RAY: Before the job offer, Self worked long hours as a truck driver to help make ends meet while in school. But now, hes moving out of the truck drivers seat and into a corporate office chair. His new job is with the same company hes been driving for. Hes going to oversee the management of the entire fleet of trucks, and its a job he says is tailor-made for his degree in international business. He focused on supply-chain logistics.

Mr. SELF: To be honest, some of the best connections I had were the networking connections.

Ms. PEGGY SCHLECHTER (Dean of Students, National American University): Companies hire people that they know; they hire people that have experience in the field; and so he kind of took advantage of both of those things.

RAY: Peggy Schlechter is dean of students at National American University, a for-profit institution where Self went to school. She helps former students find work. Schlechter says taking a blue-collar job in the same field you want a white-collar career is a good way to get your foot in the door. But Schlechter adds that it still takes some tenacity to land a dream job.

Ms. SCHLECHTER: The job market now is tougher than it used to be, but there are jobs that are still out there. It just might take a little bit longer, and a little more diligence.

RAY: But diligence only goes so far. Josh Bivens is with the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. He co-authored a paper on the job prospects for young adults in this recession. Bivens says the unemployment rate for recent college graduates is not likely to make any sort of quick turnaround.

Mr. JOSH BIVENS (Economic Policy Institute): Pretty much following the rest of the labor market, in that its been kind of stuck in neutral for about the past eight or nine months, and there is no sign of improvement. Young college grads have not been able to buy themselves out of the bad labor market, Im afraid.

RAY: Bivens says the unemployment rate for college grads wont improve until the economy begins to grow.

Christopher Self doesnt have any debt. As a veteran, the military paid for his degree. So he felt obliged to taxpayers, who covered his education, to keep the job search going.

Mr. SELF: Feels awesome. I mean, from some of the predictions that I was hearing from some of the industry experts, it was up to a year that I should be job hunting. And so yeah, its pretty nice.

(Soundbite of party)

RAY: For now, Self is celebrating at his going-away party. Hes joking with some friends. He says hell miss the people he grew close to in college. Still, hes excited about the future.

But for a large number of recent graduates who are still searching for jobs, there's no reason to party.

For NPR News, Im Charles Michael Ray in Rapid City, South Dakota.

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